Zack Finds Lifelong Friend in Chemo Duck

You may recognize Zack as the boy behind one of our adorable Chemo Duck cartoon characters. This is his story…zack

Three days before his third birthday, Zack’s parents received the worst news a parent can hear: “your son has cancer.”

Not long after his diagnosis, their local hospital in the UK, Birmingham Children’s Hospital, gave Zack the hope and comfort he needed — his very own Chemo Duck.

“Zack was very excited about his duck,” said Zack’s father, Ian. “He used his duck two-fold. The doctors would use the duck to show him what they were going to do and then he would do it to the duck as well — many times over!”

They also added accessories to the Chemo Duck as needed. For example, the duck still has a cut-down NG tube from when Zack had to have one for a few months. They also gave Zack a toy medical kit, which he loved to use on the duck.

After three years, Zack finished his last chemo treatment in March 2011. Although he will continue to have yearly check-ups indefinitely, he is now considered a full-fledge cancer survivor!

When asked about what he would share with other parents who are going through the journey of cancer with their child, Ian’s father said, “Time does pass, things do get better! Zack was under treatment for almost three years, but it has been almost six years since his treatment stopped. It is both the longest and fastest time I have ever experienced.”

Ian continues, “Never give up, never doubt. Cry you heart out — let it all go! Accept all the help you are offered. You can always turn it down later, but if you say no first, they may not offer again. Don’t be too proud. And lastly, while this can be an incredibly challenging experience for you and your child, it’s important to do whatever it takes to minimize the bad times and maximize the good ones!”

Today, Zack is still dealing with a wide range of issues, including Klinefelter Syndrome, brain damage from chemo (which is extremely rare), Autism, Global Developmental Delays and Epilepsy.

And while he is emotionally and educationally behind in comparison to his physical age, overall he is a very genuinely happy, warm and loving boy! He loves anything fire, fire engine or fireman-related and is in the Special Needs arm of the Fire Cadets. He also loves anything transport-related and can often be found playing pretend, driving a taxi, fire engine, bus or plane in his mind — and when they “break down,” he is quick to step in and fix them.

“He is becoming ever more aware that he is different,” said Ian. “But he battles on regardless. He will always provide a smile when asked and will share almost anything with you if you’ll be his friend. Anyone who spends even a little time with him say they love him — he is just one of those lovable type of people!”

Everyone with the Gabe’s Chemo Duck Program is thrilled to have Zack as a member of our Chemo Duck gang. His perseverance and positive-attitude is an inspiration to us all!

Gift Giving Guide for Kids with Cancer

When a child is diagnosed with cancer everyone feels helpless. Despite our best efforts, it is difficult to know what to do for the family. If you’re looking to help the family by offering your time and talents, you should take a peek at our Parent-to-Parent Guide and download the “Support Plan” section for ways to help out and great planning tools to assist you with becoming a part of the families’ support team.

If you do not live close to the family but would like to offer a gift to show your support, or are simply looking for a way to show the child or family you care at this holiday time, here are five great gift ideas for children and families in cancer treatment:

The Comfort of Home

When children spend a great deal of time hospitalized, they usually like to personalize their hospital room as much as possible. Taking blankets and pillows from home can be a great way to make the room feel cozy and functional at the same time.

    • Bed Rest Pillows
      Bed rest pillows allow the child to rest in a sitting position on something comfortable. For examples of fun bed rest pillows, visit Bed Bath and Beyond and check out a variety of colors, textures and a even some college football themes!
    • A Medical Kit
      Putting together a medical kit that contains one or more of the following useful items is a great way to show your support for a child or family. Ideas for valuable items include:
    • Hand sanitizer
      Try finding a brand that is organic or moisturizes since sanitizer can be rough on hands when used as much as a family living with cancer uses it.
    • The gift of pain free shots with Buzzy®
      Buzzy® is simply a bee-shaped ice pack that vibrates and can be used for natural pain relief. It can be used on any sharp pain, itches and burns. The vibration and cold desensitize the body’s nerves and dull or eliminate pain.
    • Sippy Sure Medicine Dispensing Sippy Cup
      Any way we can help kids take oral medication is a benefit. This sippy cup has a hidden medicine dispenser that snaps into place to make the task so much easier. Along the same lines Ava the elephant makes medicine fun! 
    • A GOOD Thermometer
      Accurate temperature readings are very important to families living with childhood cancer. Ear thermometers are fast and non-invasive.
    • Picc Line Covers
      It’s a good idea to keep peripheral IV lines covered so kids don’t pull at them. Etsy has some fun and funky covers so kids of all ages can cover Picc Lines with pride.
  • G Tube Protectors
    Not all children in cancer treatment need NG or G tubes, but if they do, here are a couple of fantastic products:

The Gift of Good Food

Consider offering your friends the gift of a good meal while they are experiencing a hospital stay. Restaurant gift certificates make this possible even when you’re not able to deliver it yourself. You can research restaurants that are located close to the hospital and provide delivery service. Be sure to include a menu for the restaurant (usually available to print on the restaurant’s website) and cash for to tip the driver.

The Gift of Preparation

Car totes are a useful gift for families who may experience unplanned hospital visits. They can be packed with snacks, blankets and hospital stay essentials and left by the door or in the car. You can provide this gift empty or filled with useful home away from home items.

The Gift of Knowledge and Education

Gabe’s Chemo Duck Program is devoted to educating families about childhood cancer. When we know what to expect we are better prepared and less anxious.

Besides our famous Chemo Duck, we offer many products free of charge to assist families during this time.

Feel free to print out any of our useful tools such as our: